ICWA News & Views

Weekly Stories about What’s Happening in Washington State and Stories of Interest to Washingtonians by Gerald Braude

October 14 Episode of An Informed Life Radio Notes and Links

Guest: James Lyons-Weiler, Ph.D.

Guest: David and Lauren Peterson; Rocky Martinez of King County Firefighters United

Whatcom County Resident: “I Have Never Seen So Much Hypocrisy.” 

A few minutes into the October 12 Be Brave Washington meeting, Whatcom County Council Member Kathy Kershner walked into the room and received a standing ovation. 

The forty attendees at the meeting, held at New Life Fellowship in Lynden, had been discussing the previous night’s county council four-to-three vote to pass the Racial Equity Ordinance in Whatcom County. See also the Whatcom Register.

Of the about one hundred attendees at that Whatcom County Council meeting, a dozen of them were from Be Brave Washington. Public comments on the ordinance were limited to three minutes per person, so three members from Be Brave Washington composed a three-person speech that ran for nine minutes. 

They spoke at separate times early on in the public comments section. The focus was on an immigrant who has been living in Whatcom for thirty-five years. She lived in Cambodia for the first seven years of her life until a civil war broke out led by Communist leader Pol Pot. When she came to the United States a year later, her dad worked any job he could get, such as planting trees and went to school to learn English. From that, he was able to get a more secure and better paying job to support his family. The speaker then said,

“He was frugal and hardworking enough that we didn’t have to live on the community, including food stamps, forever. Sure, my siblings and I were called racist names when we were in grade school. Some kids can be cruel, but not all of them were like that. We stayed away from mean kids and cultivated the friendships with the kind ones around us. We have always been in a community of predominantly white. But did I or my siblings feel disadvantaged or oppressed? No. Quite the opposite. After a while, we didn’t see race or color inequality. We see the people who they are as a person.”

The speaker had been a longtime Democratic Party voter, for she saw the party as a uniting force for building, for everyone, a better and brighter future in the community. “Where we all feel like we belong,” the speaker said. The speaker saw this shining community to be inclusive for all people of color, disability, LGBQT, religion, political affiliations, and economic status.

“I am extremely saddened, broken hearted, and disappointed that in the last two-and-a-half years, the shine of rosy brightness was lifted from my eyes. Those shine colorful eyes are still embodied in me, but it is no longer embodied in the Democratic Party that I once believed in and supported for decades,” the speaker said.    

The speaker said that this was because the past two years had been the most heartbreaking experience in her life.

“It is not one that one generally thinks of as discrimination,” she said. “It wasn’t about my being a minority, or race, or the color of my skin. It was about my not wearing a mask, people wanting to stand six feet apart from me, people proudly judging me by my medical status. Instead of people asking questions about my not disclosing my medical status, I was quickly judged, banned, censored, and told I was an anti-vaxxer, branded, and boxed in as a crazy conspiracy theorist, conservative Trump supporter. I was very confused for a while, thinking why were they treating me this way? What is this all about? I thought we were supposed to be inclusive, tolerant, and accepting of one another. Instead, we were divided, and I felt like the Democratic Party had left me high and dry.”

As for what the Racial Equity Commission represents, the speaker said,

“ I see a gigantic red flag before me and an enormous warning for the Whatcom County people. I’ve seen this before in Cambodia.” The speaker was referring to when the Khmer Rouge, after the 1975 revolution,  promised to purify Cambodia, return it to simple agricultural life, and restore social harmony. Instead, Cambodia under Pol Pot became a murderous experiment that produced more than two million deaths. “It is the same system over and over to overtake governments around the world,” the speaker said. “It isn’t new. It just comes at you in a different costume, in disguise. Promises are bright and shiny, and full of feel good feelings with belonging, inclusiveness, and sustainability and equality. How can this be so when so many of our police, doctors, teachers, firefighters, EMTs were discriminated against without a voice and lost their jobs for not taking the jabs? How is that democratic? Whatever happened to my body, my choice? Were these voices supported and protected? A resounding no.” 

The speaker asked the county council the following: 

“Do we want to have a quasi-government overseeing and shaping our local elected representatives for making the decisions for our country and cities instead of the people who have been coming and speaking at the county council meetings for the last two years, asking for help with the flooding as well as the illegal mandates, discrimination, etcetera? Do we want appointed people chosen by stakeholders with conflicts of interest to be shaping and influencing our elected representatives? Do these stakeholders have the people of Whatcom County in their best interest? Do these stakeholders have agendas and plans that are already in place while they manipulate us to believe that these were our plans and ideas?”

These questions refer to the September 27, 2022 Whatcom County Council meeting where it was revealed that the public/private partnership for this Racial Equity Commission was being proposed by the Chuckanut Health Foundation, which has received a grant from the Group Health Foundation for $225,000.

On the “Our Work” page, the Chuckanut Health Foundation says that one of their health goals is, “Getting to 90% Vaccinated in Whatcom County!” The page goes on to state, “Please get your Covid-19 Vaccine! It’s the best way to get our community to the end of this pandemic, to revitalize our community, and minimize further disease and loss of life.” The page concludes with the following request: 

To our physicians, nurses, and medical professionals—and to all in our community—we’d love to hear from you. Use the form below to tell us why you got vaccinated and why you hope others will too. We’d love to share your messages with Whatcom County!”

After asking the council to vote “no” on the ordinance, the speaker recommended that the Racial Equity Commission come to fruition as a private entity outside of our elected local government. “We do not need any more bureaucracy, especially in an appointed quasi-government,” the speaker said.  

Late in the public comments session, Natalie Chavez from Be Brave Washington spoke to the council. She’s been attending the Whatcom County Council meetings since January 2021. This time, however, she was already disheartened by the large crowd of those who were laughing and cackling at the opposing comments to the ordinance. She told the council that she has been living in Bellingham for eighteen years and reared her family here. She has Mexican roots, and her father worked in the fields since he was seven years old, getting paid by the acre or the pound. She has been a lifelong Democrat, and, though she is not related to Cesar Chavez, her uncle helped him organize their labor movements. She has participated in such events as International Peace Day, Women’s Pride marches, Juneteenth, Martin Luther King events, and a Black Lives Matter gathering at American Heritage Park. 

“That being said, I have some huge concerns with the Racial Equity Commission ordinance,” Chavez said. “I have black and brown friends in this community who were discriminated against and fired from their jobs over the last year because of the unethical COVID-19 shot mandates by Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood and the Bellingham City Council. My friend’s spouse, who is black, got fired from the Bellingham Police Department and a number of his co-workers were fired too, and a number of them took an early retirement, resigned, or moved out of town. So, we probably lost twenty officers when all was said and done, which is one of the reasons Bellingham is struggling so much with crime and public safety and having to triage 9-1-1 dispatch calls. If this ordinance does not cover all community members, not even all the black and brown community members, then I have a problem with that. I hope the Whatcom Racial Equity Commission continues as a service-based organization in this community and changes its name to reflect an inclusivity for all community members for those who are black, brown, white, LGBQT, unvaccinated, amongst others so that everyone in Whatcom County feels that they belong. Please table this vote on this ordinance so that you can have more dialogue with community members.” 

Early on in the Zoom calls portion of the public comments, Misty Flowers from Be Brave Washington, who also has been a guest on An Informed Life Radio, told the county council to hold off on voting on this ordinance tonight.  

“Take the time to listen to what your constituents are telling you and digest any e-mails that might be coming in regarding this,” Flowers said. “That’s because one of the biggest things I see happening is  that, as important as this topic is, anybody who has been paying attention to local government over the past two years recognizes that we have a failure to govern in our local community, and I can’t even wrap my head around how you would begin to govern racism. It is not something that you can govern and what so many of us have been calling on you to do is govern on the things that you have been asked to govern like our local roadways and our taxes and using our tax money appropriately, and we don’t see that happening. Instead, we see another commission starting, another commission that has all these great buzzwords, but where’s the real action that’s going to bring people together again. In the last two years, we’ve seen a huge amount of division across the board. It has many people fearful of each other. Many families have been broken apart. There’s been so much divisiveness. We’ve seen for the last two years our city council and our mayor shut down public comment. They didn’t care about the public’s voices, or any minority, whatsoever. And yet they come to the council tonight to urge you to vote ‘yes’ on this? I’d like to see how much money is coming in from out of Whatcom County to push this ordinance through. Just like the Prop 5 bill to increase property taxes, there’s money coming in from outside Whatcom County. And none of you are looking at those things.”  

The last public comment was via Zoom call in which the speaker did not give his name or location, but his comments drove straight to the commission’s hypocrisy: 

“Equity should be the last thing coming out of you people on the left’s mouths after what you have done to the people who wanted to have freedom over their body and were then discriminated against every single day. People of every color and race were fired from their jobs for not taking the COVID-19 jab. They were put out on the streets. They were homeless. They couldn’t feed their families because they chose to protect themselves against a dangerous, untested, unproven, vaccine. And now you have the word equity in your mouth? I have never seen so much hypocrisy in my life. You guys need to start thinking about the word equity. So long as they agree with you, it is equity. If they disagree with you, it is not equity. It is a Communist/Marxist divisive tactic. I have read the Communist Manifesto. I know exactly how Marxism works, and I’ve now seen it implemented over the past three years.”

After public comments, Kathy Kershner followed up on the Be Brave Washington suggestions by moving to delay the vote until December 6 so that further discussion could be done. After the motion was seconded, it failed with the following vote from the county council members:  

No: Barry Buchanan, Todd Donovan, Carol Frazey, Kaylee Galloway

Yes: Tyler Byrd, Ben Elenbaas, Kathy Kershner

After Whatcom County Prosecutor Eric Richey spoke on behalf of the Chuckanut Health Foundation for passing this ordinance, Kathy Kershner followed up on Natalie Chavez’s suggestion by making a motion to “Return the ordinance to the stake group and ask them to remove the racial component and bring it back with a focus on equity for all.” 

Carol Frazey’s rebuttal was that, on November 24, 2020, “We decided that we had a racial crisis in this county. This is our first action step that will move things forward.” 

After the motion was seconded, it failed by way of the council members voting in the same manner as Kershner’s failed motion to delay the vote.  

No: Barry Buchanan, Todd Donovan, Carol Frazey, Kaylee Galloway

Yes: Tyler Byrd, Ben Elenbaas, Kathy Kershner

After the Racial Equity Commission ordinance was passed with the same voting outcome, Kershner made a motion to “Add language that would include a sunset clause for five years as part of the ordinance.” She feared that by creating this commission forever in Whatcom County, the county would be institutionalizing racism. She wanted to ensure that, in the future, the commission would still be meeting its purpose, or if it would need changes, or something else needed to be done. One council member said that five years was too soon. Kershner then said, “I’m disappointed in my fellow council members that they don’t seem to think that we’re going to meet the goal of racial equity.” After her motion was seconded, it failed with the council members voting the same way as the motions for delaying the vote, removing the word “racial,” and the official passing of the ordinance. 

At the following night’s Be Brave Washington meeting, Kershner said to those who attended the Whatcom County Council meeting, “You showed grace, poise, and intelligence. I was so proud to be associated with you.”

Natalie Chavez told the group, “Thank you for speaking up. That was the most intense meeting at every level. I found it so ironic that a health foundation (Chuckanut Health Foundation) is overseeing racial equity in our communities. I hope that what has happened over the last two years will never happen again.”

Misty Flowers told the group, “Your participation at the county council meeting shows me what Be Brave Washington is doing here. The council members are following their own agenda, not the agenda of the people. We can show the county council that we are not going away.”

The group briefly discussed creating a “county accountability commission.” Kathy Kershner responded, “If you propose something like that, I will sponsor it for you.”   

Be Brave Washington has gone from meeting two Wednesdays a month to meeting every Wednesday. This is to facilitate more action in the community by way of creating weekly action groups. The five groups gathered in this meeting for the following purposes. 

  1. Increased involvement with election integrity. 
  2. Voting down Proposition 5. 
  3. A liberty commerce network to help businesses hurt by the lockdown.
  4. Support for a Ferndale School District employee who was fired for refusing the COVID-19 shot. 
  5. Ashley Wines’s work with the COVID-19 Human Betrayal Project as well as her work with Informed Choice Washington for starting “Operation Lion” that aims to provide opportunities to set the truth free and have it become part of the official public record. Forming a group for tracking vaccine injured in Whatcom County is in the works.  

The following excerpt from the COVID-19 Human Betrayal Project ‘s web page summarizes the group’s efforts: 

The Covid19 Humanity Betrayal Memory Project is changing lives already by building the world’s largest online resource for information regarding the individual victims and the concerted effort to deny human beings with safe and available medical treatment. Discover how you can help bring the truth to light and create a chance for family connections that transcend Humanity Betrayal and time to ensure this never happens again.